History provides eloquent testimony — if any was needed — that empires rise, flourish and flounder and that connectivity and logistics invariably provide part, if not all, of the explanation, for the same. Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka built highways along an ancient route called Uttarapatha in the 3rd century BC. Sher Shah Suri expanded on this network in the 16th century and rebuilt this ancient path of commerce.
The 190 years of British colonial domination has its own story. Yes, they did build railways, ports and bridges, but mainly to mine out wealth from India and ship it to England or export raw cotton and import cloth made in the mills of Lancashire and Manchester. The British left behind a disorganised patchwork of bureaucratic silos, the rail system built by them providing a good example. Their organisations were designed to be commandeered for the imperial exploitation of India rather than synergetic nation-building.
Under Congress rule, this fractionated style of policy-making and execution would hold back the economic development of India, leading to unequal distribution of wealth and opportunities. New infrastructure development was less than comprehensive, and even then chaotically executed. We became used to signboards saying “work in progress, go slow”, as different government departments would work without coordination — for example, digging up newly laid roads for laying utility and optical fibre cables.
The Prime Minister’s Gati Shakti plan is a bold step in changing the status of the progress of the nation from “go slow” to “go fast”. Over the past seven years, our government has taken giant strides in simplifying and integrating disparate policies and procedures to accelerate development.
GST simplified the taxation of goods and services while Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mudra brought in instant Direct Benefit Transfer into bank accounts. The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, UDAN, Jal Marg Vikas, industrial and freight corridors, the Bharatmala and Sagarmala projects have given a big boost to the infrastructure and industrial prowess of the country.
Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, we rolled out One Nation One Ration Card, the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission and Aatmanirbhar Bharat mission. We have been able to formulate, mass-produce, transport, administer and follow-up 1 billion doses of a temperature-sensitive novel vaccine.